This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Does it ever strike the farmer, or any one who keeps fowls either for profit or pleasure, that there is a great advantage in keeping improved breeds of poultry over the common barnyard fowls ? Hardly a farmer but will acknowledge that it costs no more to keep a good cow than a poor one; and that the improved thoroughbreds are better than the ordinary cow, and that therefore it is more profitable to keep pure stock than mixed. But how many apply the same reasoning to the poultry yard ? The fifty or more fowls on the majority of farms could profitably be replaced by twenty of some improved variety - in fact, twenty pure-bred fowls, well kept and cared for, will produce more eggs in the year, and as many chickens, as one hundred common fowls allowed to run as they please and shift for themselves.
Common fowls will average 50 eggs each per year, while many of the improved breeds will average 150 to 200, and some few varieties 250 to 300.
I do not think any guide can be given as to the number of fowls any one should keep ; for while one could profitably keep 100 to 200, another would do far better with 20, or even a less number. My advice would be, only keep as many as you can keep well. I am aware that many think it impossible to keep large numbers of fowls together and have them thrive. This is a mistaken idea, and arises from the fact, that where large yards of fowls are, or have been kept, they have not received proper care and attention, and have, therefore, ceased to be profitable.
One hundred fowls are not too many for a single yard, and even double that number may be kept, if the same care and attention are given them that would be paid to a dozen or twenty. We are too apt, when we have so many, to provide insufficiently - to be careless about their housing and keeping their quarters clean. It seems but little trouble to care for twenty fowls, and takes only a few minutes to see that they are all safely housed in cold weather; but when one hundred or more have to be cared for, we are very apt to begrudge the labor, thinking "it don't pay to spend so much time on a lot of chickens." We think there is less time and labor spent on poultry than on any other kind of stock; and we do not know of anything that will better repay the care and attention given them. I believe there is double the profit on $500 invested in poultry (improved varieties) than an equal investment in any other kind of farm stock. At the prices paid for eggs in the New York market the past three or four years, a hen will pay for herself and keeping within the year, and all her progeny is clear gain, over and above the first outlay. We do not mean to say that everything will be paid for, but the first cost of the fowl and her feeding and the care bestowed on her.
But in order to secure this result, good fowl houses and yards must be provided, skillful care and treatment given, and improved varieties of fowls kept.